Our understanding of illness has to move from an excessive preoccupation with structural pathology towards a completer view of the phenomenon. Gross physical illness is only the last and visible end result of a cascading inner misery. The physical organs are the final frontiers and outposts to bear the shock of a deeper inner pathology. Structural pathology is the outermost instrument registering the inner disequilibrium — a last and final call for change. This does not mean it is of any less value. Quite the contrary. The presence of structural pathology does complicate things and therefore it cannot be ignored or belittled. But to keep on correcting the outer body without any meaningful effort to correct the inner fault is like changing the fuse wire each time it blows off without trying to explore the reasons for the fluctuation of the current and the voltage.
In fact, modern medicine itself has moved away from gross anatomical lesions to lesions at biochemical, genetic, molecular and even electro-physiologic levels (as in epilepsy and certain forms of ischemic heart diseases [IHD]). Equally, there is an acknowledgment of the role of lifestyle, personality traits, thoughts and emotions in triggering an illness. It won’t be surprising if, in the next 20 years, we move yet deeper and discover that physical abnormality is only a gross reflection of an imbalance in the pattern of consciousness energy. We may discover, for instance, using techniques of crystallography, that drugs correct molecular aberrations simply by imposing/reminding the diseased part of its healthy pattern, by casting its own unique pattern which somewhere corresponds to the part. This realignment or reorganisation can occur not only with allopathic drugs, but also with other forms of therapy (including water molecules) if the crystallographic or, better, the nature of energy field matches the part. But for this, we may have to wait a little longer. Our infant science has not yet stopped playing with matter. It is still attracted to the molecular toys and their magic. Once, however, it has played to its fullest extent, there is time for higher learning. Once we have explored not only the full potential but also the limits of our toys, we shall be ready for the high school of scientific education.
The limits are already beginning to appear. Even infectious diseases, whose conquest appeared stunningly superb, are beginning to return, and return with a vengeance. How long shall we remain blind to the fact that our look-alike toy is undoubtedly marvellous but not the real thing? The secret of health still eludes us. Death and disease still take their toll and continue to pick and choose their prey. We can only delay death a little. We replace heart for heart and liver for liver; we may replace even the physical body with a robot or a clone. But even a clone is only a look-alike. The experience and consciousness is different. And unless we learn to replace consciousness, replacing the wrong movement with the right, the false vibration with the true one, we shall move in circles, perhaps bigger and bigger circles, but on the same plane, returning to the same mysterious ‘nought’ that swallows our best efforts.
Illness – A Disequilibrium
One thing all healers would agree with is that an illness is essentially a disequilibrium. That is to say, the aberration (whether molecular or subtle) becomes an aberration only in relation to the whole. A crude example would suffice. Certain chemicals can kill humans with toxic levels but not a shark. Even within us, an abnormal function translates into an illness only because it has a cascading effect upon the entire organism. Systems may differ in defining the nature of the disequilibrium, but all agree that there is a disequilibrium. At the physical level it is obvious enough. Thus, there may arise a disharmony within the different cellular groups of a particular organ, or to go still deeper, between the different components of a cell. So too the dysfunction and imbalance may be a lack of harmony between the different organs in the supply and demand of different functions. Thus, the allopathic homoeostasis is seen at the level of the cells and organs. The Ayurvedic physician speaks of disequilibrium at a more fundamental level, an excess or deficiency of the five subtle elements and the three fundamental forces of nature in relation to each other. Homeopaths understand disequilibrium in terms of an imbalance in the vital force and so do many Chinese and Tibetan systems. The flower therapist works out the disequilibrium at a deeper mental and emotional level, whereas the pranic healers discover the disequilibrium at the level of chakras in the energy fields. These systems, therefore, actually complement each other. A day may come when we may understand diagnosis by relating and describing the disequilibrium at each level and prescribe a corresponding therapy.
Thus, we may consider a particular patient with blocked coronaries as reflecting a psychological attitude of blocking his emotions and holding things back. We may go on to see that this has led to congestion of vital force in some parts and depletion in others and also, we may notice, an altered energy field at the ‘heart chakra’ leading to an imbalance. The healing too will follow at multiple levels of which physical intervention through Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) surgery would be only one aspect of the treatment. The other levels also need to be addressed simultaneously. In a strictly physical model of disease, we may mock this whole exercise by simply saying that it makes no difference so long as the clot is removed and the heart has resumed its function. That may or may not be so for the physician, but it makes a difference to the man who returns after a few weeks or months or years with another heartache. In our infant enthusiasm and over-eagerness, we forget that man is not just a body and except for the most crude and animal side of humanity, we cannot be simply satisfied by our heavy bellies and empty hearts. We are more and we need to be more.
From the consciousness point of view, the disequilibrium can take place in the following ways:
(i) A disequilibrium purely at the level of the body between the different organs. This may happen because of overuse of a few and underuse of others or a disparity between demand and supply. This in turn may be at organic or at the functional level, in other words involving the structures or involving only the functions.
(ii) To this we may add the disequilibrium due primarily to the vital. This is mainly due to excess desires leading first to an irritation of the organs, and second to false and an abnormal increase in demand upon the body. Along with excess desires come almost as a package deal the other two factors that we know as fear and anxiety. Fear and anxiety are perverse wills that attract the object of fear by constantly meditating upon it.
(iii) To these two we may add the disequilibrium due to the mind and its fixed ideas and rigid dogmas and doubts and even so-called rational and scientific beliefs in the causation of illness. There are, in addition, contradictory wills in us that add to the misery. There are even perverse wills that hold on to the illness for various reasons.
(iv) Then there is the additional factor of different pace of progress in the different parts of our nature, leading to an internal conflict, quarrel, disharmony and consequent imbalance.
(v) The totality of our being includes an inner and an outer nature. A great disparity between the two movements, inner and outer, can also lead to an internal dislocation translated as an illness.
(vi) Finally, we do not exist in isolation and therefore even if we were to isolate ourselves physically and harmonise, we cannot isolate ourselves fully at a deeper level. The disharmony between our being and the physical and psychological environment around us is another factor in the causation of illness. There are even forces of illness and disorder, not only the gross ones that we know of but subtler ones, concealed even to a microscopic sense but revealed to the subtle sense and vision of the yogi. These and other factors contribute to the formation that we call as an illness, an end product of many processes.
Knowledge – A Help and a Hindrance
It is said and rightly so that half knowledge is a dangerous thing. An absence of knowledge can be compensated by a right kind of faith. But an arrogance of ignorance passed off as knowledge is a very dangerous thing, since it closes our doors of higher perceptions. We can, for example, have trust that the All-Knower will pull us out of a difficulty or disease and distress if we understand nothing or know not what do about it. Often it helps, sometimes powerfully enough to look like a miracle. The truth of the matter is simply that by not knowing and therefore opening the doors to the All-Knower we invoke a much greater power and its far-reaching intervention. But by knowing a little we may develop a false sense of security and thereby close the doors to other forms of a higher intervention.
What we often and perhaps unwittingly do by our half knowledge is to instil fear, through the use of terms, which do little good to the patient except creating anxiety. They only help in creating in the patient an even greater sense of helplessness. After all how can one fight an enemy whose very name is a mystery, evoking unknown fears, and whose sword of terror seems to be hopelessly stuck in our cells and our genes or whatever else. The word of the physician only makes our fears grow worse by giving strange powers to this demon of disease. How often do we hear a physician talk about only the negative side of an illness? How often do we hear him blaming it all on the genes and chemicals beyond our apparent control? We need to inspire the faith of the patient in his own abilities to help himself, in the great wisdom and power of Nature that is conscious and not just a blindly driven machine, and in God who is the caretaker of every destiny. By doing these together we may create the best possible conditions for a cure.
Yes, there is a lot more we can do for patients, if we understand the rationale behind an illness and take charge of ourselves. We can and must collaborate in the healing process, provided of course we understand it. And this is a crucial task of the physician. Merely sticking a label and prescribing a pill is not enough. But one can’t blame the physician. Our medical schools based on the reductionist model teach us nothing more than being a dignified and efficient machine. And the patient too is for us nothing else but another machine to be repaired just as we repair a car or a computer without any conscious collaboration from either. But those who have dealt with machines for a long period know better. Machines too respond to us and can and do collaborate. Man is obviously much more.
What we need is to replace our thoroughly mechanical and mechanistic model of man and diseases with a conscious approach to both. Man is conscious, cells are conscious, even germs and elements and the chemicals we use are conscious in their own obscure way. The ancient healer who prepared and dispensed the medicines himself, taking care to invoke a higher presence to aid the drug, knew intuitively a great truth missed by the modern physician. The present-day medico driven as much by the market of drugs and the commercial motives behind it has lost faith in everything except the chemicals and of that too he is becoming increasingly unsure! No wonder the intuitive age saw the healer heal with his pink and green mixtures almost as effectively as our man today armed with a glossary of drugs. Of course he knew less, but he compensated this absence of knowledge by a right kind of faith. Today, we apparently know more but only one-tenth of the truth. The price of this half knowledge, inspiring arrogance, is a loss of faith and that indeed is the real danger. The almost superstitious belief in the omnipotence of germs, in the inevitability of the worst if untreated, is a wrong kind of belief supported by half knowledge that sees only one side of a many-sided reality. The result is the worst kind of dogma, a worse form of material fatalism, a scientifically supported, rational superstition!
In fact, a contemporary modern physician is not only brainwashed and conditioned into thinking in terms of physical pathology, he almost comes out with an air of vanity that refuses to admit any grain of truth in any other system. And, by doing so, one closes the doors to truth and knowledge. One isolates oneself in one’s ignorance. One is imprisoned by one’s vanity.
What we need to be cautious about is that we are not substituting one word for another more frightening one, nor adding to the misery by injecting fear and anxiety through the syringes of our medical knowledge. Knowledge is a power, no doubt, but a power that can be turned to good or bad use unless of course it is the highest and total knowledge. A knowledge that leads to a frightening ambiguity is best left unsaid. Besides being an intellectual honesty, it is also practical wisdom and medical diplomacy.
This is one of those yet unanswered questions in medical science. Given the same agent and environment what are the factors in the host that invite an illness. Although there is a preoccupation with outer causes of illness including germs and toxins, we are now beginning to look inward for the inner causes. But are we looking deep enough? Are genes and their regulatory mechanism the last word of life? We have to look beyond the genes into the hidden aspects of our own personality wherein the forces of illness find support and settle down. What is a germ after all but a tiny little physical entity combined with a vital vibration of disorder and a mental suggestion of fear. The physical element alone minus the vital and mental forces of disorder is of little consequence. And to these forces of disintegration we lend further support through fear in the mind and the body, through self-doubt and defeatism, through a selfish turning back upon ourselves that cuts us off from the great streams of Divine energy that can rejuvenate us. When we do that we create a favourable ground for an illness to settle itself.
On the other hand, in the face of an approaching illness we can learn how to enter deep within us, thereby creating in and around us a very quiet vibration, a vibration of peace, of health, of harmony, of light, of goodwill and cheer which creates a sort of protective shield helping us resist the most sinister of attacks. Even if one cannot remain always in this state (it is not an easy affair for many of us) we can try to be on guard as soon as we feel the negative vibration approaching us. Some people know it instinctively, in their bones as they say; others can learn to become aware of this almost material sensation of illness. In fact, it manifests at each level. It may manifest as a strange and disagreeable sensation in taste and smell, or an unpleasant feeling of something touching us at a distance. It may change the very quality of air around, or else manifest itself as a feeling of fear, or even a frank suggestion that one is going to fall ill. And lo and behold the prophecy is fulfilled more often than not!
Finally, of course, there are factors that prolong the malady and allow it to return and recur again and again. The prolongation is usually due to the mind holding on to the malady either due to fear or to some reward. It is almost like falling in love with the illness. One does not want to let it go, one clings to it and wants oneself to be looked after.
Even if one has successfully eliminated these props from active awareness, it remains buried in the subconscient depths and returns at an opportune moment when we are caught unawares. It is this subconscient that needs to be changed if we are to find a permanent solution to the problem of illness, their chronicity and recurrence. This unfortunately is a yet to be achieved thing though a promise for the future. On the successful change of our subconscient nature rests the hope of humanity perfectly immune from illnesses.
“The possibilities of illness are always there in your body and around you; you carry within you or there swarm about you the microbes and germs of every disease. How is it that all of a sudden you succumb to an illness which you did not have for years? You will say it is due to a “depression of the vital force”. But from where does the depression come? It comes from some disharmony in the being, from a lack of receptivity to the divine forces. When you cut yourself off from the energy and light that sustain you, then there is this depression, there is created what medical science calls a “favourable ground” and something takes advantage of it. It is doubt, gloominess, lack of confidence, a selfish turning back upon yourself that cuts you off from the light and divine energy and gives the attack this advantage. It is this that is the cause of your falling ill and not microbes.”
[The Mother, Questions and Answers 1929-1931, 19 May 1929]
“…You thought for months perhaps or even for years, you thought you were completely rid of a certain kind of illness which you suffered from, and you no longer paid any attention, and suddenly one day it returns as though it had never gone; it springs up again from the subconscient …. And the method is to change the subconscient into the conscient — if each thing that rises to the surface becomes conscious, at that moment it must be changed.”
[The Mother, Questions and Answers 1955, 11 May 1955]
Faith and Will
Faith is the reflex of knowledge known to our deepest self, but concealed to our outer mind and its partial, clouded vision. Also, will is the reflex of power clothing itself in terms of human effort. Seen this way, illness is nothing but a wrong faith and a perverse will. Therefore, it can be seen as a falsehood of the mind and the body which misuse and misapply these two powers in a wrong way. Wrong faith and wrong will are the secret origin of illness just as right faith and right will are the starting points of a truly effective cure. Of course when we speak of faith, we do not mean just a mental faith but a faith that is integral, ingrained in the very stuff of the body cells. Will too does not mean here the mental will alone but the sum total of energies directed towards different ends in life. Thus there may be a faith and will for recovery in the mind but a twist in the vital consciousness perversely willing to fall sick and even having faith in the gospel of sickness and tragedies. These contradictory wills and a self-defeating faith is much more common than we think — only we are not aware of it. Illness, tragedies, suffering comes knocking at our door to make us aware of it. It comes to help us discover and reject the wrong movements and to harmonise the contradictions. In fact, it is like a work we are born to do to become one-pointed in right faith and a right will, to align these from their errant and deviant course till we discover the practical omniscience of knowledge and the omnipotence of will.
Modern medicine has indeed begun to admit, however obscurely and in a limited way, the role of faith and will in health and healing. When we observe in this way, we find that an illness is a pointer. But a pointer to what? Not only of a biochemical imbalance but of a deeper imbalance, a more fundamental disequilibrium, a deeper malady seated in our mind and life. When we are not able to see or stop the malady at these subtler levels, then we have gross pathology, as a reminder to our soul of the ‘yet to be achieved perfection,’ lest we forget to evolve and shut ourselves in the glass-case comforts of our civilisation. The deeper malady is not merely recording an imbalance at the mental-vital-physical levels. It is not even an imbalance in the energy fields and the chakras. All these are only pointers. The subtle imbalance is as much a pointer as the gross imbalance. They are not the source. And unless we correct the source of the problem, the malady will return, under one guise or another. Even intervention at subtle levels would only be temporary, only a help in ‘buying time’, just as our physical remedies do.
The source of the malady is within us, in the many contradicting and conflicting wills, in each element that chooses to cut itself off from its divine origin and so suffers diminution, disease and death. Each element that is thus cut off becomes a free-floater, creating the climate for diseases and even inviting it. It creates the imbalance at the level of consciousness and hence at the energy level and chakras. This in turn results in disease and illness. Our body is like a battlefield of many conflicting elements. In this physical body alone, we find all the planes, forces, movements and energies of Nature trying to manifest themselves. The body is the seat of the difficulty. And the body will be the last crown of victory. Not the body as we understand it today. But the body as a symbol where each force and energy come knocking at its doors to manifest it. The different parts of our nature move at different paces, offering different degrees of resistance to the evolutionary force. The result is an inner dislocation translated in terms of an outer illness.